Locals hope to run back to the top

GLENDALE — With some familiar faces in different places and the ever present change that a new season always brings, the outlook for the 2008-09 girls’ soccer seasons provides one constant.

With none of the half-dozen area squads having won a league title last year and nary a team advancing past the first round, either, a lust for improvement is definitely to be had by all.

Crescenta Valley High was the favorite to win the Pacific League title a season ago, but fell below those expectations, finishing third and losing to Thousand Oaks, 4-0, in the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs.

Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy turned in a second-place Mission League performance, the program’s best ever, but lost 3-2 in the opening round of the playoffs to Dos Pueblos in a chaotic game.

Holy Family was the third local team to make the playoffs, but a 10-1 wild-card defeat was hardly a memorable ending.

As for Flintridge Prep, Glendale and Hoover, they were all left on the outside of the CIF playoffs looking in. But change is at hand, or at least that’s what every team is hopeful of.

“It’ll be an interesting season,” said Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy co-Coach Frank Pace.

Reggie Rivas, who coached the Falcons to the CIF finals in 2002, has returned to the Falcons helm, while Esteban Chavez will pull double duty in coaching the Flintridge Prep girls’ team and keeping on as the Rebels’ boys’ coach.

Sacred Heart co-coaches Kathy Desmond and Pace return to lead a Tologs team rife with defensive mainstays, but absent of offensive experience. That doesn’t mean they’re short on talent, however, as the Tologs boast a stellar cast of incoming freshmen on the offensive end that’s led by midfielder Tera Trujillo and forwards Katie Johnson and Breeana Koemans.

“Now they have to prove they can play against faster, stronger and bigger players,” said Pace, whose team must deal with the losses of five former All-Area offensive players, including last season’s All-Area Player of the Year Carter Vettese, “but they have great seniors to show them how.”

Those seniors include a starting defense that returns in its entirety — University of New Mexico-bound Sinead Fleming, UC Davis-bound Pip Harrigan and Sam Norton.

Norton is currently injured, but upon her return, Harrigan will likely move up to the midfield to enhance the offense, a move made possible by the transfer of sophomore defender Natalie Zeenni from Arcadia.

Senior Catherine Yonai, junior and returning starter Dominque Oro and freshman Lindsay Espe will all vie for the starting goaltending role, while senior forward Bianca Garoian will offer the most seasoned offensive presence.

Still, Pace realizes if his team is to compete for a league crown in the always tough Mission League, it must be patient in allowing the younger players to come along.

“I think we’ll need to be patient early,” said Pace, whose team hopes to dethrone reigning league champion Harvard-Westlake, the third-ranked team in Division II. “We’ve got a lot of talent, we just don’t have a lot of experience on the offensive side of the ball.”

Crescenta Valley is hardly short on talent either, with the likes of University of Kansas-bound Tori Baldridge, Brittany Berger, Veronica Aguilar and Danny Cardenas — all of them all-league picks a year ago — returning for the Falcons.

Rivas, the third Falcons coach in as many seasons, contends that the Pacific League, which was won last year by Pasadena, will be up for grabs and that, talented or not, after Crescenta Valley’s third-place finish last season, it has something to prove.

“I think [the rest of the league] looks at us and says CV has to prove itself and I think we do, too,” said Rivas, who also predicts big contributions from junior defender Dana Dowse and junior utility player Olivia Sierra. “I think anyone can win in this league. It’s gonna come down to who wants it more.”

Rivas, who said his team is still a work in progress in terms of starting lineups, is preaching more about playing with fortitude and teamwork than anything having to do with talent and expectation.

“We have to play as a team,” said Rivas, who will have juniors Amanda Rose Johnson and Apolonia Martinez battling it out for the netkeeping duties, but will be without Alex Barrett-Scherrer, last year’s leading goal scorer who didn’t return to the team for unknown reasons. “I think we have to start connecting on the field, we have to work together.”

Holy Family, under third-year Coach Marco Calderon, lost only three starters from last season’s third-place Horizon League squad.

All-league honorees Melissa Franco and Diana Castellanos, both juniors, and Monet Estrada, a sophomore, are expected to contribute mightily in helping the Gaels to a third straight playoff berth.

Flintridge Prep hopes for a return to the postseason after a fourth-place Prep League finish a season ago. The Rebels look to contend under new Coach Esteban Chavez, who will coach the boys’ team for the third year, while taking on the girls’ duties which were held down by Sean Beattie.

The Rebels are expected to return All-Prep League selections Brooke Elby and senior Charlotte Milinovich.

Glendale second-year Coach Dino Barbiera is just as excited about his coaching staff as he is anything else. In all, he expects to have four assistants, including Heather Fraschetti, last year’s Crescenta Valley coach and a former Nitros assistant, and former CV junior varsity Coach Christine Duff.

“We’ll be focusing on each department,” said Barbiera, who will focus his efforts on the team’s strikers. “I’m trying really to balance the team offensively and defensively. They should strengthen in all aspects of the game.”

Barbiera’s team will look for big contributions from the likes of seniors Sharis Harootun and Melissa Sanchez, while dealing with the losses of co-league most valuable player Sarah Mizuki to graduation and All-Area pick Gabby Chiraboga for unspecified reasons after last season’s sixth-place finish.

Hoover Coach Carlos Rojas, whose team took seventh in his first year, believes his team has finally gotten comfortable and settled in after a season of unfamiliarity.

“I think there’s more stability, there’s more chemistry between the players and coaches,” said Rojas, who expects lofty contributions from senior Natalie Renteria and sophomore Dulce Olzera Esparaza. “They’re a lot more familiarized with the game now, they know more than the basics.”

Glendale and Hoover split the season series last year and both are hoping this season that they’ll be playing for a playoff spot and not just bragging rights.

“It’s still our goal,” Rojas said, “top four, why not?”

Added Barbiera: “I’m really shooting for bigger things.”

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